Canadian Architect

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Award of Merit: Hnault + Gosselin Head Office

A warehouse and office building offers a simple plan and a clear message.

December 1, 2003
by Canadian Architect

Montreal, Quebec
NOMADE architecture

Hnault + Gosselin, subcontractors of foundations, underpinnings and piles with in-house engineering services, wanted to regroup all its activities in one location. The site is located in the eastern part of Montreal’s downtown core, in a heavily industrial sector and near the Port of Montreal, at boulevard Notre-Dame’s busy east-west corridor and boulevard Pie-IX’s north-south axis. Benefiting from maximum visibility, the building’s proximity to the waterfront includes access to a large parcel of expropriated land. The site can be imagined bisecting the residential sector to the north and the industrial shore to the south.

The envelope is divided into two contrasting strata: an opaque metal siding on ground level represents an “earth strata” while the suspended glazed curtain wall on the top floor becomes the “sky strata.” Workshop and warehousing facilities are located on the earth strata while the office spaces are in the glazed sky strata. The shearing movement of the project’s strata symbolizes the mission and core business at Hnault + Gosselin: an expertise in piles and underpinning.

Anchoring the two strata to the site, a luminous glass tower is positioned in a visual axis of ascension to boulevard Pie-IX and perpendicular to busy boulevard Notre-Dame. This urban lantern, powered by photovoltaic cells located in the light well, showcases the company’s corporate colour and logo; it helps the building acquire a measure of civic meaning–perhaps acting as a beacon or structural presence in the midst of a dreary industrial landscape.

Building on a vacant industrial site reduces sprawl by re-using the existing land resource. The client could have alternatively located itself at a suburban industrial park. Concern with such issues extends to H + G’s playing a part in cleaning up the St-Lawrence Seaway waterfront and decontaminating the building’s site. The opaque bottom half of the building acts as thermal massing due to its concrete walls, which protect the inside from extreme heat during the day and diffuse warmth at night. Office and inhabited spaces benefit from a maximum amount of natural light and are oriented to maximize winter sunlight while reducing exposure during the summer months with the help of a cantilevered overhang on the southern faade. North elevations are mainly opaque to reduce heat loss from the building envelope. The roof is used as a retention basin for heavy rainfall, thus reducing heat loads during summer months.

Concrete foundations and slabs are partly composed of granular material recuperated on the many construction sites the company oversees, reducing the need for new gravel on the roof.

Boutin: This project was recognized because it instills into a simple programme a strong urban and architectural presence. Utilizing few but sophisticated moves, this often ignored building type is given legibility both in terms of how it occupies the site and becomes an active participant to the context of that site, that is, the traffic. Of particular note is the use of the building skin that undulates provocatively, providing natural light and amenity for the building occupants and corporate identity for the passing motorists.

Rosenberg: The client and architect should be commended for raising the bar on what an industrial building could and should be.

Sherman: A smart project which demonstrates what can be accomplished on the most ordinary of building types: the ubiquitous, virtually program-less two-storey office building, of which so much of most commercial streetscapes today are comprised. The architects show remarkable ability to recognize and capitalize upon only the elements of the building that matter, and no more: the fenestration, entry canopy and sign.




Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect is a magazine for architects and related professionals practicing in Canada. Canada's only monthly design publication, Canadian Architect has been in continuous publication since 1955.
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